September 6 2010
– Corruption is rife among the Pakistan cricket team, one of its top players has sensationally claimed.
Test opener Yasir Hameed reportedly told a Sunday newspaper that some of his colleagues fixed ‘almost every match’.
His allegations brought further disgrace on the Pakistan team after the suspension of captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, over the betting scandal that has rocked the sport.
Yasir Hameed leaves the Pakistan High Commission in London on Sunday following allegations that he has accused his team-mates of fixing matches
In a conversation secretly taped by the News of the World, Hameed said of the trio: ‘They’ve been caught. Only the ones that get caught are branded crooks.
‘They were doing it (fixing) in almost every match. God knows what they were up to. Scotland Yard was after them for ages.
‘It makes me angry because I’m playing my best and they are trying to lose.’
Pakistan team manager Yawar Saeed said at the team hotel in Cardiff that Hameed had denied making such statements, although there is video footage of the interview.
Asked about the explosive claims, Saeed said: ‘I have just spoken to Yasir and he did deny it.
‘I said, “If you have not said these things why are they saying this?”
‘Again he said “I have not said it”.That’s all, let’s wait and see what happens.’
There were also suggestions Hameed was offered, and turned down, £100,000 to fix matches.
Accused: (l-r) Mohammad Aamer, Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, back,are being questioned over an alleged betting scam
Butt, Asif and Aamer maintain their innocence amid claims a middle-man accepted £150,000 to arrange for no-balls to be bowled during last month’s fourth Test against England at Lord’s.
The three players, who deny any wrongdoing, have been interviewed as criminal suspects by Scotland Yard.
They are also the subject of a separate inquiry by the International Cricket Council, the sport’s governing body, which could see them receive life bans.
Yesterday it was reported a fourth Pakistan player, whose name has not been disclosed, is also being investigated in connection with match-fixing claims.
The bombshell new allegations follow an apology on behalf of the three suspended players from Pakistan Twenty20 captain Shahid Afridi.
Afridi also confirmed that the businessman at the heart of the allegations, playboy sports agent Mazhar Majeed, and his brother Azhar, were managing the trio involved.
He said: ‘On behalf of these boys – I know they’re not in this series – I want to say sorry to all cricket lovers and all the cricketing nations.’
The ICC has charged the trio of players under their anti-corruption code and provisionally banned them from playing in any match.
Disdain: Pakistan Twenty20 captain Shahid Afridi, second from left, has apologised on behalf of his team-mates
The three men were released without charge on Friday after being questioned under caution by detectives at Kilburn police station in north-west London.
Majeed has also been arrested and released on bail without charge.
Hameed released a statement saying he was only repeating allegations he had read in the newspapers.
The 32-year-old said he was approached by a man he believed was offering him a sponsorship deal, but who also asked about the match-fixing allegations.
‘As I saw him as a friend and a potential agent I naively started to answer his questions,’ he said.
‘As far as I recall, I only told him whatever I had already read in the newspapers about the matter.’
As revealed in the Daily Mail, marked notes from the £150,000 cash given to Majeed during the News of the World sting have been found by police in Butt’s hotel bedroom.
Majeed is accused of accepting the cash to arrange for Pakistan players to deliberately bowl no-balls during last week’s fourth Test at Lord’s.
Yesterday the Pakistan High Commissioner in London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan – who had previously claimed that Butt, Asif and Aamer were the victims of a ‘set-up’ – said the three cricketers accused of corruption should receive life bans from cricket if found guilty.
‘If the News of the World evidence is correct, then I would banish them from cricket,’ Mr Hasan said.
But Mr Hasan insisted the trio are ‘innocent until proven guilty’. He added: ‘That was my stance from day one and I still maintain it.
‘We questioned them and all my colleagues that talked to them said that, “yes, apparently they are innocent”.
‘But we’re not police investigators – it’s up to the police to find out if they’re guilty.’
Scotland Yard detectives are already liaising closely with the Crown Prosecution Service over the corruption investigation.
But senior legal sources believe it is unlikely that any of the trio will face criminal charges and will instead be dealt with through cricket’s disciplinary procedures.
Proving criminality in sport is notoriously difficult and police are wary of launching a multi-million pound inquiry which from the outset has no realistic prospect of success.
The News of the World also claimed a fourth Pakistan player – unnamed ‘for legal reasons’ – is being investigated by the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit (ACSU).
The world governing body said it was unable to confirm or deny the existence of work being undertaken by the ACSU.
– Stephen Wright